Premiati Oleifici Barbera

Quality and tradition make this company, established all the way back in 1894, the leader in its sector, with hi-tech olive-oil mill and a revolutionary supply chain made by 10k small olive growers

Manfredi Barbera

Manfredi Barbera

Innovation is part of the picture, too. This historic Italian brand of olive oil is the crème de la crème. It’s a happy paradox that Premiati Oleifici Barbera, the company founded by Lorenzo Barbera before the dawn of the twentieth century, is now in the capable hands of Manfredi, the fourth generation of this entrepreneurial family. Given the gold medal won at the universal exhibition of 1900 in Paris, as well as that of St. Louis, in America, four years later, it is clear to see that the Barbera family knew innovation should be the keyword for business development.

In fact, they were the first to introduce glass bottles as the means to distribute olive oil to shops. «In 1936 my grandfather was inspired by an idea, so he went to Murano to buy the first bottles for the oil that was to be served aboard the ships of the historic Florio shipping company», Manfredi says. «We were also the ones who, in 1960, invented unfiltered olive oil must, just as it is when it comes out of the mill and is then bottled after it has settled naturally».

Thanks to a thorough emphasis on quality and internationalisation, today the company boasts a turnover of 20 million euros per year and foreign exports of 65% to at least 50 countries, including the Usa, Canada, Japan, China and Russia. The rest is sold within Italy through traditional channels and large-scale retailers.

The company’s leadership continues. In Custonaci, within the province of Trapani, where the company’s main manufacturing plant is based, a high-tech, experimental oil mill has recently been put into operation. «It’s the only one in the world that can work with four oil presses at the same time», says Barbera proudly, «and with four different systems for milling olives: With disks, with hammer crushers, with opposing stone rollers and with a pitter». Certainly it’s the most advanced system of its kind, and the company has the Research Department of Palermo University to thank for it. Research isn’t an end in itself, however. Constant experimentation and the improvement of manufacturing processes gave life to Lorenzo No. 5, the award-winning olive oil with unique nutritional characteristics and flavours, which is made from de-pitted olives. «We called it Lorenzo No. 5 in honour of my son, who will be the fifth generation to take the helm of the company as its leader for tomorrow».

The company is also a pioneer in terms of manufacturing organisation. Again it was Manfredi who signed the first –perhaps most significant– sector agreement, bringing together more than 10,000 small olive growers and 50 mills in Sicily under the umbrella of Co.Fi.Ol, the Consorzio della Filiera Olivicola (Olive Oil Supply Chain Consortium). «The consortium is a production and distribution organisation that is truly revolutionary: Not only do we harvest and sell, but we also implement transfer contracts whereby the consortium remains the producer and Barbera sells the bulk product, selecting it by area, cultivation type and outlet market.

This creates cohesion between the players within the olive-oil sector and Sicilian olive oil, allowing us to obtain a very high-quality product at affordable prices». The so-called short supply chain produces not only commercial results but social and ethical ones as well. «Instead of having just one large mill, we leave the work to 50 small mills spread around the area. So, they’re guardians of tradition. This is how we protect artisan workmanship and quality. From an ethical standpoint, we also achieve considerable reductions in CO2 emissions because we move the oil but not the olives, amounting to a 50% reduction in pollution». History, productive organisation and innovation are the three pillars that make Barbera the leader in its sector.